Extremely loud and incredibly close

April 20, 2014

Extremely loud and incredibly close
Singer: Lea Michele
Album: Louder
As soon as Rachel Berry sang her first note on Glee, it was fairly obvious that Lea Michele was very talented and had a great voice. But by around the second note, it was also painfully evident that the actress came from a theatrical background and had a penchant for overdramatizing her every move and intonation. So after years of success on Glee, when the singer announced that she would be releasing her inevitable debut album, it came as a surprise to absolutely no one that the show’s breakout star would want to capitalize on its popularity and delve into the pop market (like a few of her fellow cast mates had already tried to do before her, albeit with very limited success). What was interesting to see, though, was how she – outside of the Glee bubble and as a solo artist – would marry her showtune vocal inclination with mainstream pop music sensibilities, and whether one would overtake the other. Would the album just be a revisit to the stylings of Rachel Berry? Or would the singer have something different to offer?

Now that the album has been released, we finally know which direction she has chosen to go in: it’s generic, tired, and thoroughly underwhelming schmaltz.

Drenched in her typical fervor, Louder is a collection of power pop ditties that are formulaic and familiar, but still showcase a singer who clearly has impressive vocal chops. Lea’s first attempt at original solo material, the set was shaped by a number of producers and relies heavily on outside songwriters.

The singer herself has co-penned only two of the 11 songs on the record, while the rest of the credits read like they were pulled out of a ‘songwriters for hire’ grab bag. From Christina Perri and Chantal Kreviazuk to Anne Preven and Sia Furler (who is fast becoming synonymous with tedious pop mediocrity), well-known names are on hand to dole out standard, hollow sentiments about heartbreak and empowerment that are set to monotonous tunes.

Album opener and first single ‘Cannonball’ is a fair representation of what you can expect from the rest of the record. Built around an analogy that probably wasn’t fully thought through, the mid-tempo track is mildly catchy and also thoroughly inessential. Elsewhere there are power ballads, tinges of dance pop, and occasional R&B influences, although in essence it becomes hard to tell the tracks apart. Songs like the ballad ‘Battlefield’ and the bouncy dance pop of ‘On My Way’ (and just about everything else on the album for that matter), though performed competently, don’t offer anything new or visit a territory into which singers like Leona Lewis, Demi Lovato, and Kelly Clarkson haven’t already tediously ventured numerous times. The few moments that have some significance come in the songs which Lea co-wrote and which offer a glimpse of her actual feelings. Piano ballad ‘If You Say So’, written after the untimely death of Cory Monteith, in particular has the most resonance, primarily because of its touching subject matter and poignant delivery.

On the whole, Louder is just about as generic as mainstream music gets. Tepid pop filtered through Lea Michele’s musical theatre roots, the record fails to define the singer’s own sound and leaves her in a Katy Perry meets Celine Dion limbo that is devoid of personality and personability. And that’s a downright shame, because the singer has the talent to potentially make a much stronger album. Ultimately, Louder might please diehard gleeks and Lea fans but doesn’t offer much to anyone else.

Sameen Amer can be reached at [email protected]

Extremely loud and incredibly close